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Biographical Review: Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York
John A. Newell

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[This information is from pp. 48-52 of Biographical Review Volume XXXIII: Containing Life Sketches of Leading Citizens of Greene, Schoharie and Schenectady Counties, New York (Boston: Biographical Review Publishing Company, 1899). It is in the collection of the Grems-Doolittle Library of the Schenectady County Historical Society at 920 BIO.]

Portrait of John A. Newell

Portrait: John A. Newell

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John A. Newell, of the well-known mercantile firm of Potter & Newell, Main Street, Windham, Greene County, N. Y., was born in Durham, N. Y., on September 21, 1829, son of Andrus and Julia (Bushnell) Newell. His paternal grandfather, John Newell, was a native of Southington, Conn., and came to Durham among the early pioneers of that town.

Captain John Newell, as he was widely known from his rank in the State militia in the early training days, built first a log cabin and then a frame house, which he kept as a tavern for many years. He was of sturdy stock that could endure hardships without flinching, and his common sense equalled his stalwart frame. He was a militia man in the War of 1812. He lived to be over seventy years of age, and his wife also lived to be old. They reared a family of eight children.

Andrus Newell, who was born in Durham, became a prosperous farmer on his one hundred and sixty acres. He tore down the building that his father had used as a tavern, and erected in its place the large and handsome house which is now the home of his son Charles. Like his father he was a man of sound judgment and of splendid physical strength, being hearty and hale up to the time of his death, at the age of eighty-six. He was originally a Whig in politics and later a Republican, and he held numerous offices during his long and active life. His wife, Julia, died at the age of fifty years. She was a native of Westbrook, Conn. Both were devoted members of the Congregational church. Of their ten children Louisa died at the age of twenty-seven, Zina died at the age of seventy-one, and Edwin at the age of five years. The living are: John A., Sylvia, Abby, Adelbert, Elizabeth, Charles, and Eliezur D. Sylvia is the wife of the Rev. S. H. Fellows, of Wauregan, Conn.. Abby is the wife of Professor Gilbert, teacher of mathematics in the high school at Albany, N. Y. Adelbert is a prosperous farmer of Coxsackie, N. Y. Elizabeth is Mrs. Dorland A. Peck. Charles is a farmer on the old homestead, and Eliezur resides with him.

John Newell lived with his parents until he was about sixteen and a half years of age, when he came to Windham. He had received a common-school education, and upon coming here he began learning the cabinet-maker's trade with Mr. Potter, his present partner. At the age of twenty-one, having finished his apprenticeship, he went to New York City, where he worked for two years. During this time he saved a small amount of money, and at the close of his second year he received an offer from Mr. Potter to return to Windham and enter into partnership with him. This offer he accepted, and in 1852 was formed the partnership that is now the oldest in existence in this county. Since that time Messrs. Potter & Newell have built up a very large trade in Windham and the surrounding region. Both gentlemen are skilled workmen in every branch of furniture manufacturing, having made all kinds of furniture by hand. They have in past years done considerable manufacturing on their own premises, and still continue to manufacture coffins and caskets. Their trade in furniture is extensive, and as they are the only undertakers within a radius of ten miles they practically do all the business in that line hereabouts. No firm is better known in all the surrounding country than that of Potter & Newell.

In 1856 Mr. Newell married Eunice Hunt, who was born in the house in which Mr. Newell now resides. Her parents were Daniel and Mary (Rowley) Hunt, both of whom were members of the Presbyterian church. Of their family of four boys and five girls three are living and reside in Windham. Mr. Hunt was a leading man in the town and prominent in all public affairs. By occupation he was a miller, and he built the mill now standing here and the mill-race. Mrs. Hunt, who was born in Lexington, died at the age of sixty-three. Mrs. Newell died on October 10, 1898, dropping suddenly from heart disease, at the age of sixty-seven. Mr. Newell has lost his two children — Highland and Mary E. Highland Newell, who was a young man of unusual promise, died at the age of twenty-three. He was a member of the Hampden Watch Company, of Springfield, Mass., having learned the watchmaker's trade in his native place. He had been in business three years when cut down by a fatal illness. Mary E. died at five years of age.

Politically, Mr. Newell is a Republican. He has served his townspeople in the office of Collector of Taxes and as Auditor of the town accounts, and has been a candidate for Supervisor. He is a member of Mountain Lodge of Masons, No. 529, having joined shortly after the lodge was organized. His interest in Masonic affairs has been active and unremitting, and he has held nearly every office in the lodge. He was Master at the time the Masonic Temple in New York was dedicated. For nearly fifty years Mr. Newell has been an active worker in the Presbyterian church in this place, and for the last thirty years has been the leading tenor in the church choir, which is the best in any town in the county outside of Catskill. He comes of a musical family, all of them being singers. For more than a quarter of a century he has been an Elder in the church, and for nine years he served the Sunday-school as its superintendent. He can scarcely remember the time when he was not connected with the Sunday-school, either as pupil, teacher, or superintendent.

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